ERP and e-commerce integration scenarios, part 5. Overview and point-to-point integrations

Overview

ERP systems and e-commerce are the most popular integration points in today’s enterprises. Why is this so important for retailers and suppliers? Let’s have a look at the interaction of ERP and e-commerce to discover a hunch.

Modern e-commerce solutions usually consist of multiple custom-built applications, acquired from a third-party, part of a legacy system, or a combination thereof, operating in multiple tiers of different operating system platforms. Creating a single, big application to run an entire business is almost impossible.

The ERP vendors have had some success at creating larger-than-ever business applications. ERP can contain a lot of information that keeps your business running smoothly. Product details, pricing, customer information, delivery status, etc. Everything your web store needs to deliver an irresistible online buying experience.

However, the reality is that even products like SAP, Oracle, Dynamics and others only perform a fraction of the business functions required in a typical e-commerce. Your ERP was not built or set up to sell your products online. In addition, web store software cannot beat your ERP at business logic and data management. We can take a short tour inside the integration jungle to see how the integration of ERP systems in e-commerce enterprises can be carried out.

Integration strategy

Virto Commerce was invented and developed to be integrated with any ERP. It makes both systems work in a way they do best.

In the modern world of 2020, any good software can easily integrate with any other great software. Virto Commerce is designed and developed as a modular API based e-commerce platform, which means one cannot bypass the API.

What does this mean for business?

Any action that can be executed inside the system can be integrated with the ERP software without any restrictions from the platform side. It opens a huge amount of opportunities to combine different kinds of software, replace labor routines with automation, and delegate responsibilities or access to information to your customers.

For this example, we assume that the solution must support the following requirements:

  • Place an order – Customers can place orders. A customer adds a favorite to the basket, follows the payment procedure and finally receives a message “Thank you for your order, enjoy your purchase”. From an ERP systems integration point of view, this is only a starting point.
  • Sync new order with the ERP of the supplier – New paid order should be delivered to the ERP of the supplier. Within the typical e-commerce retail business, the inventory management is based on stocks available purely at suppliers, which can be dozens or even hundreds. The next thing to do is to send the order to the ERP of the supplier, receive the confirmation and update the delivery status in the application. Then provide the customer with the delivery status.
  • Sync price and inventory with Virto Commerce – The suppliers update their catalog and prices periodically.

The e-commerce backend needs to frequently update pricing and goods availability based on the new data from the supplier’s ERP to ensure its e-commerce frontend displays the goods at the webstore catalog up to date.

The first function we want to implement is taking orders. The smooth acceptance of orders is an essential matter as they generate revenue. And it is a critical part of the business functionality. The second and third are common scenarios between e-commerce and ERP systems.

Note: we simplified the requirements for brevity, but these types of requirements often occur in real businesses.

Point-to-point integrations

If ERP supports API, ERP can be integrated. You can create custom modules, write code, receive an “order created” event and send new order details to ERP. Same approach for Sync Price and Inventory from ERP to e-commerce.

Advantages

  • Our minimalist integration solution is fast to implement and inexpensive.

But it results in a very brittle solution because the two participating parties make the following assumptions about each other.

Disadvantages

  • Platform technology – internal representations of numbers and objects.
  • Location – hard-coded address.
  • Time/Error Handling – all components must be available at the same time.
  • Extensibility – if we want to add a new system into the sync order process, we will need recreated integration again.

Let’s look at this process in detail. When both systems are connected point-to-point, we are limited by the platform technology we use. For example, the implementation of the client that supports a new protocol like GraphQL can be difficult to implement.

We need to know the location, open firewall, etc. In the worst case, both systems should have access to each other, for example, if a developer implements Sync Order process integration in e-commerce and Sync Price and Inventory in ERP.

All components must be available at the same time. Otherwise, the customer will see an error message and could not complete the order. But, if an error has occurred during ordering, the critical business process fails.

If we plan to customize or extend the Sync order process with a new ERP, we need to develop a new integration again.

About the author of this article

Oleg Zhuk
Technical Product Owner

Oleg is a leading technologist and has grown professionally from being senior C++ and C# developer to solution architect. He joined Virto Commerce as a Solution Architect was promoted to lead Technical Product Owner. Oleg has leadership and communication skills and has had the opportunity to coach solution architects and share best practices of building great architecture. He holds a degree in mathematics from the Emmanuel Kant State University.

 

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